Nostalgia sells. We are constantly throwing money at the idea of trying to relive those precious magical memories from our childhood - from a time where we were innocent and devoid of adult burdens. So it’s no surprise that nostalgia is everywhere at the moment: in movies like Guardians of the Galaxy 2; the return of kid’s shows like The Smurfs and Voltron; the adult-horror 80’s-themed Netflix hit Stranger Things; and can you believe that Teddy Ruxpin will be back in 2017?
It makes sense from a marketing point of view. The key target demographic looking for nostalgic experiences are those in their 30’s. An audience who have a decent amount of disposable income, or if they don’t, it’s probably because they have kids. But being a parent myself, I constantly find myself pushing my own childhood joys onto my kids (my four year olds know the names of the original Generation One Transformers for instance).
From a different angle, a lot of the creative forces behind movies and television (like James Gunn, Joss Whedon, and Phil Lord) are in that same age demographic too, and they’re making things that they once loved as a child.
Games are no exception. We’re seeing an increasing number of classics from back in the day being re-created and brought to life on modern consoles. But remastering a beloved game isn’t easy. It’s the fine balance of trying to capture what made the experience so memorable to begin with, while considering a whole new generation of players and adapting to the expectations of the modern gaming world.
Here are our recommended remastered classic games for anyone old enough to remember Garbage Pail Kids, plus some upcoming ones to look out for this year:
From the genius mind of Tim Schafer, this remaster of a cult classic takes us back to the golden days of gaming, when PC adventure games were all the rage thanks to the studio LucasArts. It was a genre renowned for challenging puzzles, and the re-release of Grim Fandango doesn’t attempt to hold your hand. Unlike many modern games, it doesn’t give you a tutorial or any hints, often resulting in hours of brain-taxing frustration. But we do have the one thing that wasn’t around 17 years ago - the magical Internet. Finding a walkthrough online removes a lot of the second-guessing, and allows you to just enjoy the cinematic story.
Another recent remaster from Tim Schafer’s impressive back catalogue. This PC and PS4 port revisits the 1995 classic, putting you in the steel-capped boots of Ben Throttle -- the tough-as-nails leader of biker gang the Polecats who gets caught up in a tale of motorcycles, mayhem, and even murder. Again, its questionable “adventure game logic” might deter younger players, but for others there’s no better time to hit the open road thanks to this beautifully executed port.
One of the most stunning video game experiences I’ve ever played. The art direction in Another World was cutting edge, created by visionary game designer Eric Chahi. It was one of the first games to not feature any form of heads-up display, and to present the gameplay in a tight letterbox frame, giving it a distinct cinematic feel. The use of clever angles and layering for depth, combined with a slick, minimal cel-shaded style, makes Another World a perfect candidate for an HD remaster. The game is exactly how I remembered it, action-packed and beautifully captivating and -- apart from a higher price tag than expected -- is still worth checking out.
This game is basically the reason I’m writing this article in the first place. The Dragon’s Trap, released just last month, and it perfectly encapsulates everything that a remaster should. The 8-bit graphics of 1989 have been lovingly recrafted into gorgeous hand-drawn illustrations which give the game a whole new appeal. The developers have been considerate enough to maintain the original graphics too, and players can seamlessly switch between the two drastically different art styles at the press of a button. Even the soundtrack, which has also been radically updated, can be toggled in-game.
It’s amazing how they have managed to make a 28-year old game feel modern. It’s not just through visuals either, but through taking the original engine and adapting it to modern day controllers - reducing the amount of lag and making things more responsive. It’s a classic game that everyone should play, whether you remember the original or not.
There’s more to come as well - here are some upcoming re-releases of some classic games from back in the day:
An Amiga classic, Constructor was basically a crude, Cockney-themed Sim City game where players had to manage a small town by building housing, industrial zones, police, and monitor the environment. It was unique mainly due to its humorous approach; it never got bogged down by the serious details of Sim City. Instead you had to contend with groups of thugs, hippies, or overweight unemployed idiots with too many children. Imagine trying to control the lives of the cast of the Jeremy Kyle show. It was a lot of fun, and it is scheduled to arrive on the PS4 at the end of May. I honestly thought I was the only one who had ever played this game until now.
A PlayStation classic for many, this long-awaited collection of remasters combines the first three titles in the Crash Bandicoot series: Crash Bandicoot, Cortex Strikes Back and Warped, which were all originally developed by Naughty Dog for the first PlayStation. It marks the 20th anniversary of the first game and is scheduled to arrive on the PS4 on the 30th June this year.
This table-top racer featuring pint-sized toy cars came out way back in 1991 on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), and even appeared on the monochromatic Gameboy. Amazingly, the original publishers Codemasters are still around today, and are bringing Micro Machines back on the PS4 and PC this June. Household racing environments such as the breakfast table, or children’s bedroom are all upgraded with stunning HD visuals, and the game will also include all new combat-orientated modes.
What games do you have a fond memory for which you think should be remastered? Who remembers the gory knight fighting Moonstone; the isometric helicopter shooter Desert Strike; or the top-down army arcade classic Cannon Fodder? Let us know via the comments below!